Operators could gain millions of pounds of extra revenue by activating services to secure customer loyalty from inbound and outbound roamers.
That, at least, is what two major vendors of value added roaming services have claimed to Mobile Europe. John Hoffman, ceo of Roamware, said, "The industry sort of has forgotten a bit about roaming...especially outbound roaming, which has traditionally been neglected by operators."
Hoffman said operators needed to provide their outbound roamers with services to ensure either that the subscriber stayed on the group network when in another country, or else with his home network's preferred roaming partner.
Hoffman said that services which ensure a call is received with a CLI still in tact, and give a user the same voicemail functionality as at home, produce a tangible increase in calls.
"Every time a customer is successfully provisioned in a foreign network he will receive three calls and make four extra calls on average. If you are a group operator, by keeping a customer on your network you can make tens to hundreds of millions of additional revenue. At the moment between 40 and 70% of roamers successfully stay on a group network. If all customers stayed on host properties when abroad then it would be worth hundreds of millions a year."
Hoffman outlined three main ways to keep customers on network when roaming. One is the method of sending a text ("which can be irritating"), the second is a "soft redirect" which prompts a user to use a network as a menu item.
The last, and according to Hoffman an area "everyone is trying to figure out right now" is the "fertile ground" of the hard redirect.
This would use an over the air STK application to move the customer over to a network without any action on the customer's part. It is an approach which requires SIM cards to be provisioned, as well as the operator's own server platform. But it's also an approach being followed by Roamware rival Starhome.
Starhome's Alon Barnea, vp of business development, said that roaming revenues is money that operators are "leaving on the table."
He too claimed that operators can add millions to revenues just by implementing procedures to keep roamers on-net and using their normal services.
For instance, the issue of misdialling from an address book in which numbers are not entered with an international code can be dealt with by a Starhome switch on a mobile network interrogating a database of all the dialling extensions around the world, working out which number the customer is trying to call and then placing the call accordingly.
Starhome has a global IP network with gateway switches from mobile networks to the IP network. This means, for instance, that a CLI can be stripped from a call and transferred across the IP network, synchronised to the call. This is the system used by Vodafone to create its Virtual Home Environment.
Bernea listed other services to extract additional revenues from roamers as optimal routing, in which two inbound roamers on a national network can call each other as a local call, rather than "tromboning" to the home network and back again and the development of Roaming Mate -- a portal which is operator branded for the outbound subscriber.
The portal allows an operator to deliver roaming requirements to the phone, for example travel guides/ special deals etc. Bernea said he expected trials of the service to begin soon.